Afrikaner Willie Landman is an affable man with a shock of strawberry blond hair and a mustache to match. He has worked in the mines around this town all his life and has been mayor of it three times.

When South Africa's 2.3 million whites to go to the polls Wednesday he will be the National Party's candidate for Carletonville's seat in the all-white Parliament in Cape Town.

Although this rural town 70 miles east of Johannesburg is the hub of the richest gold mining area in the world, the people here are not wealthy. They are working class, 80 percent of them involved in mining and 80 percent of them Afrikaans-speaking. Their security historically has been linked to the government's racial policy of apartheid.

In the past, Landman would have been a shoo-in for the seat, which has been a National Party stronghold since the party came to power 33 years ago. But today that is different.

A lot of people in Carletonville are worried today. They are confused by Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha's talk of the need to "adapt or die," and they fear the National Party might be selling them out. Rumors that the government is going to allow blacks at the mines to take supervisory positions reserved by law for whites make them fear for their jobs.

Thus Carletonville and a handful of other districts will be watched closely Wednesday to see how deep is the discontent among Afrikaners and whether they will give a seat in Parliament to the white supremacist Reconstituted National Party known by its Afrikaans initials, HNP.

Botha, who was elected prime minister by his party's caucus in 1978 when John Vorster resigned, is clearly seeking a popular mandate for his vaguely outlined intentions to change some aspects to apartheid. His party, which holds 135 of Parliament's 165 seats, is certain to go back with a huge majority again.

The opposition Progressive Federal Party, which draws most of its support from the minority of English speaking whites, won only 17 seats in the 1977 parliamentary election. Attempts to form multiracial parties have been blocked by apartheid rules, so elections here tend to be contests between various Afrikaner factions.

The HNP, which was formed 12 years ago to protest the government's initial moves to integrate sports and which has never won a seat in Parliament, appears to be enjoying an increase in popular support.

If it wins a few seats or just reduces the National Party's usually wide pluralities in many districts, it would be a clear signal to Botha on his present course. That is a worrisome thing for leaders of the clannish Afrikaner people who seek unity above all else.

Throughout the campaign, National Party political meetings have been marked by low turnouts and by some of the rowdiest behavior in Afrikaner politics in years. When Botha stumped in the mining town of Rustenburg his speech was brought to a halt three times by HNP hecklers who interrupted with interjections and songs, then scuffled with Botha backers in the main aisle.

It was a rare display of opposition toward a South African prime minister, and Afrikaner political scientist Willem Kleynhans said that no other prime minister has been so unpopular during an election campaign.

Despite the party's slogan "now more than ever," there are fears that the discontent may manifest itself by a significant boycott of the polls.

Because of the right-wing challenge, Botha and his ministers have been back-pedaling on their reformist language and resorting to the tactic of the "black threat" to woo the white electorate.

Last Saturday at a meeting in the Johannesburg suburb of Randburg, Botha, who has criticized his own followers for insulting other races and objecting to the removal of "hurtful discrimination," declared that the government could not allow all races to use the same trains because it would result in "racial friction and people will hit each other and kill each other."

In a recent interview, Botha ruled out the possibility of blacks ever owning property in white urban areas and one minister proudly boasted to a white audience that the government spends millions more on white education than it does on black schooling.

But racial policies are not the only reason for the current disaffection. White nurses, teachers and police officers are angry about pay raises that are lower than the 16 percent inflation rate, and pensioners have been outraged by the minister of health's remarks that they could "eat a good health diet" for $25 a month.

In Carletonville, HNP candidate Cor de Jager is running his campaign from a tiny second-floor room. The election posters urge readers to "stop the rot -- vote HNP."

De Jager, who also works in the mines, says people are worried about losing their jobs to blacks and about the government leading the country to a one-man, one-vote situation "like in Zimbabwe."

According to his campaign manager, Jan Vosser, blacks "expect to get something for nothing and we want to stop that."

The government's position, he said, is "unrealistic . . . Do you think you'll satisfy those blacks by giving them all they are asking for?" he asked. "A black is a black all over the world. They don't want to work for what they want, they just want it."

Landman, who operates out of the Naitonal Party's huge headquarters in the center of town, admits that the HNP has "quite a bit of support" especially among miners.

"My biggest problem is the opposition telling so many lies. It takes me hours, days, and even weeks to convince people it is lies," Landman said.

The "lies," he explained, are that the government is going to let blacks be trained to do jobs now reserved for whites and that this will mean "that the blacks will take your jobs and you'll be walking the streets, won't get any money for your children -- that is their tactic, the black danger."

"The HNP would still like to see the blacks treated as slaves, to be able to smack them and kick them around. But I think we are past that stage in life. They are trying to turn back the clock. But it's impossible," Landman said.

Not that Landman would want the clock to go too much faster. The way he see it, Botha's philosophy is to "give a person something even before they ask for it." But the philosophy of Landman, who sees himself at the conservative end of the National Party, is not to give a person something "until he needs it."